Tomorrow, the Pitchfork Music Festival will once again rock Union Park in Chicago for the 6th straight year. Growing from an upstart hipster-friendly e-zine in the late '90s, Pitchfork has expanded its online taste-making influence into a successful destination summer music festival that has not only become the measuring stick for showcasing emerging independent music, but also served as the right of passage to the mainstream. Many acts that have played Pitchfork have gone on to play in front of thousands of fans at Lollapalooza the following year.
This year Pitchfork boasts the most diverse and controversial lineup yet. To explain the back story and inspiration behind the three-day celebration of taste-making mix of indie-rock, rap, electronic and pop music, we spoke with Pitchfork President Chris Kaskie to get his take on what’s most important to him and how they’ve been able to make the festival one of the most unique, community-based and fan-centric live music experiences around.
BC: You guys have been putting on the festival since 2006. What do you guys love the most about putting it together? What are you most excited about this year?
We’re excited about this year because it’s the most unique lineup we’ve ever had. There’s not one band on the bill that my mom would recognize. And that makes it more exciting than nerve-racking because that speaks to people’s desire to experience music that’s more left-of-center. We enjoyed creating that type of personal festival experience because it’s more like we created it ourselves, which makes it not like another festivals. That type of uniqueness also represents what we are as a magazine and what Pitchfork means to people.
You have experimented with specific features on Friday nights in previous years like bands playing their classic albums and fans picking the set list. But the last two years, and this year, you’ve chosen to just have bands play without any specific theme. Was there a reason behind that?
In past years, we’ve partnered with All Tomorrow’s Parties to celebrate other artists and their albums, but we decided to make the most of the festival time and showcase as many bands as possible, since that’s what we and the fans love and want the most.
What makes the festival unique beyond just the music experience?
Music is the most important thing to us and the next is the cost. We try very hard to keep our tickets affordable. We want to provide the best experience but not gouge fans beyond what is reasonable and the best value. Our goal is that when fans walk into the festival they don’t feel inundated with corporate sponsorship. We try out best to integrate the sponsorship and keep it low key with the focus on the music. And we want fans to be able to come here and enjoy show without having to worry about buying an $8 bottle of water or a beer that’s too expensive. Celebrating the local artists with Flatstock and inviting arts and crafts groups is also a natural part of the festival. Like the picking the music, having those types of integrated experiences is something we work hard to do too.